Clement of Rome, Ignatius, and Polycarp


Clemens Romanus, or Clement of Rome, supposed to be referred to in Philippians 4:3, and to have lived from A. D. 30 to 100, and claimed by the Roman Catholics as one of their popes, is the only uninspired Christian writer of the first century whose undisputed writings have come down to us. He wrote a letter for the church at Rome to the church at Corinth, and urges the Corinthian brethren to peace, humility, and love. He uses the terms Bishop and Elder as perfectly synonymous.


Next is Ignatius, of Antioch, whose date of death is given ranging from A. D. 107 to 116. Scholars admit only three of the epistles attributed to him to be genuine: those to Polycarp, to the Ephesians, and to the Romans. He addresses Polycarp, not as a diocesan, but as a congregational Bishop, as the Bishop (or Elder) of the church at Smyrna. He exhorts the Ephesians to humility, meekness and mildness; and he tells the Romans that he does not command them like Peter and Paul, for they were Apostles, but he is a condemned convict, a slave. And so in the other writers of the second century, the Bishop is simply the presiding officer among the presbyters of a church, the first among equals, the pastor of a single congregation.


In Foxe's Book of Martyrs, in the account of the fourth primitive persecution, we find the following:

At the death of Germanicus, many of the multitude wondering at the beloved martyr for his constancy and virtue, began suddenly to cry with a loud voice, "Destroy the wicked men, let Polycarp be sought for." And whilst a great uproar and tumult began to be raised upon these cries, a certain Phrygian, named Quintus, lately arrived, was so afflicted at the sight of the wild beasts, that he rushed to the judgment seat, and abused the judges, for which he was put to death without mercy or delay.

Polycarpus, hearing that persons were seeking to apprehend him, escaped, but was discovered by a child. From this circumstance, and having dreamed that his bed suddenly became on fire, and was consumed in a moment, he concluded that it was God's will he should suffer martyrdom. He therefore did not attempt to make a second escape when he had an opportunity of doing it. Those who apprehended him were amazed at his serene countenance and gravity. After feasting them, he desired an hour for prayer, which being allowed, he prayed with such fervency, that his guards repented they had been instrumental in taking him. He was, however, carried before the pro-consul, condemned, and conducted to the market place. Wood being provided, the holy man earnestly prayed to Heaven, after being bound to the stake; and as the flames grew vehement, the executioners gave way on each side, the heat becoming intolerable. In the mean time, the bishop sung praises to God in the midst of the flames, but remained unconsumed therein, and the burning of the wood spreading a fragrance around, the guards were much surprised. Determined, however, to put an end to his life, they struck spears into his body, when the quantity of blood that issued from the wounds extinguished the flames. After considerable attempts, they put him to death, and burnt his body when dead, not being able to consume it while living. Twelve other Christians who had been intimate with Polycarp, were soon after martyred.


Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, A. D. 248-258, was the father of diocesan episcopacy and of Romanism (Popery). He represented "the Bishops as the successors of the Apostles, the chair of Peter as the centre of episcopal unity, and the church at Rome the root of all (radix et matrix ecclesia Catholicae, root and mother of the Catholic Church, Epistle 45)." But Cyprian conceded only an ideal precedence to the Bishop of Rome, for he accused the Roman Bishop Stephen of error and abuse of power. The first "Ecumenical Council" of Nice (A. D. 325) conferred on the Bishop of Rome no more authority than on the Bishops of Antioch and Alexandria. The canons of the Nicene council were forged at Rome in the interest of the papacy, and this forgery was condemned by the council of Chalcedon, A. D. 451. The first pope, in the real sense of the word, was Leo I. (A. D. 440-461), who ambitiously and energetically sought to transform the "church" into an ecclesiastical monarchy, with himself at the head; and yet the twenty-eighth canon of the council of Chalcedon (A. D. 451), acknowledged by Rome to be Ecumenical, elevated the Bishop of Constantinople to official equality with the pope. The vast forgery of the Pseudo-Isidorian Decretals was made in the ninth century, and pretended that the popes from Clement I. (A. D. 91) to Damascus I. (A. D. 384) ruled over a church in which the clergy were disconnected with the State, and unconditionally subordinate to the pope. These documents, now admitted by even Roman Catholics to be fraudulent, were used by the popes and papal writers with great effect for six hundred years to establish and increase the power of the popes over the bishops.

The first half of the ninth century is known as the period during which the papal chair was filled by a succession of the most licentious reprobates. Hildebrand, or Gregory VII, who was pope A. D. 1073-1080, claimed to be lord over all nations of the world, and to have the right to depose princes and absolve subjects from the oath of loyalty. Boniface VIII (1294-1303) issued in 1302 the famous bull "Unam sanctam" which declared that "for every human creature it is a condition of salvation to submit to the Roman Pontiff." At the close of the fifteenth century Innocent VIII and Alexander VI once more reached the deepest abyss of depravity. The Council of Trent (A. D. 1545-1563) and the Society of Jesuits have made the popes the absolute masters of the Catholic hierarchy and "church," as shown by the pontificate of Pius IX (1846-1878), who in 1854 decreed the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, or sinlessness, of the Virgin Mary; and in 1864, by his Syllabus of Errors, sweepingly condemned all the principles of religious liberty and of modern civilization; and who was declared by the Vatican council, in 1870, to be infallible in all his official definitions of faith and morals. Thus "the worship of a woman is virtually substituted for the worship of Christ, and a man-god in Rome for the God-Man in Heaven." Heathen idolatry is no worse in principle. Such is the consistent development of what is known in the Protestant and Baptist churches as "the masterpiece of Satan," which is based upon the glaring falsehoods that Christ set Peter over the other Apostles, that He made Peter His sole authoritative representative on earth, that Peter was Bishop of Rome, and that his pretended viceregency was to be perpetuated in the succession of Roman Bishops. - History of the Church of God, 1885, by Elders C. B. Hassell and Sylvester Hassell, pp. 301-302.

A free pamphlet, "Essay on Popery," published in Foxe's Book of Martyrs, 1854 London Edition, is available from The Primitive Baptist Library.

Go Back to the Primitive Baptist Library Page

Go Back to the Ancient History of the Primitive Baptist Church

Copyright c. 2001. All rights reserved. The Primitive Baptist Library.

This page maintained by: Robert Webb - (